2009: Who Was King of the West?

The West wasn’t heavy on the national radar last year, but that doesn’t mean the Westside struggled to put out quality music. Acts like Exile (Radio) and Blu (Sene’s A Day Late & A Dollar Short) used 2009 to experiment with concepts and song arrangements, while others like Jay Rock and Nipsey Hussle continued their efforts to bring forth the next generation of Gangsta Rap.

The old guard graciously shared the spotlight with their younger counterparts, but weren’t ready to bow out just yet. Snoop was the big fish, but Warren G, MC Ren, and King T were among the other West Coast legends to make appreciated returns.

The West still remains overlooked, but the game is cyclic and the region will be ready once the spotlight returns.

 

 

Snoop Dogg

Snoop began 2009 fresh by parting ways with Interscope, his label home for the last 10 years. Joining Priority, the Long Beach native spent the majority of the year building anticipation for Malice n Wonderland.

He appeared on a myriad of albums from artists like UGK and Grandmaster Flash to Charlie Wilson and Robin Thicke. Also, the Doggfather put to rest previous public comments criticizing Soulja Boy and Crooked I by collaborating with both younger peers. In total, Snoop posted over 15 guest spots throughout the year.

As one of the most marketable personalities in Hip-Hop, Snoop lent his brand to WWE as a host, opened the New York Stock Exchange, and even had his likeness immortalized in Madame Tussauds’ famous wax museum.

Over the summer, Snoop Dogg gave back to his neighborhood by helping to raise $5 million for 19-acre community center named The Kroc.

Last month, Malice n Wonderland debuted #23 on Billboard.

This year, Snoop is scheduled to release a collaboration with Anita Baker, and further projects from his own Doggystyle Records.

Standout Songs- “Gangsta Luv,” “I Wanna Rock”

 

 

Fashawn

“The Phenom” is a highly appropriate name for Fresno’s Fashawn, who dropped one of the few acclaimed solo debuts of 2009 with Boy Meets World.

The 21 year old dropped the Exile-produced LP in October, preceded by a great lead-in with the Alchemist-helmed mixtape The Antidote.

Chock full of scratch choruses, soul samples, and diverse flows/topics from Fashawn, the album is accessible enough to be at home in the streets of Brooklyn as its native California.

On “Samsonite Man,” the young emcee raps that he’s not preoccupied with holding any mythical crown (“They tell me sit in the throne/But I tell them I’m not concerned with a crown or robe…”). The humility is nice, but that type of attention will only grow if his art maintains its current elite level.

Last month, Fashawn wrapped up the How the Grouch Stole Christmas Tour with Mistah F.A.B., The Grouch, Exile, and DJ Fresh

Standout Songs- ‘Freedom,” “Ecology,” “Why”

 

 

The Game

2008’s King of the West winner saw “red” last year, locked on Jay-Z as a battle target, and reunited with mentor Dr. Dre.

After years of baiting in interviews and errant song comments, the Game finally went at Jay full blast while on tour in France. He referenced the mogul as an “old ass nigga,” and justified the attack as a response to Jay’s mention of him in a freestyle, which later turned out to be bars from the Blueprint 3 track “What We Talkin’ About.”

Even after the official diss “I’m So Wavy,” the potential feud fizzled when Jay-Z refused an on-wax response, simply stating “tell groupie to get over it” in an interview.

Game’s persistence did pay off with Dr.Dre, as the two finally reunited after a 4-year estrangement. The news was broken on Snoop Dogg’s Twitter with a pic showing the trio in the studio working on the mythical Detox. Also, the Game jubilantly confirmed later that Dre would be contributing beats for the R.E.D. Album, his first for a Game project since the Compton rapper’s 2005 debut The Documentary.

The R.E.D. Album didn’t get a release date in 2009, but Game did confirm that executive producer duties would be split between himself, Pharrell, and Dr. Dre. Two singles for the album, “Krazy” (featuring Timbaland and Gucci Mane) and “Big Money, were released in October and December.

Even without an album last year, the Game maintained attention through the aforementioned antics, and others like declaring responsibility for 50 Cent’s lowest ever sales with Before I Self-Destruct.

At press time, the R.E.D. Album is set to drop on February 16.

Standout Songs- “I’m So Wavy,” “Krazy,” “Big Money”

 

 

Crooked I

Another Eastside Long Beach Long Beach emcee made good last year in Crooked I. After a successful 2008 courtesy of his year-long Hip-Hop Weekly Series (which was copied ad nauseam), Crooked confirmed participation in the 4-man supergroup Slaughterhouse.

Signing to E1 in May, the group’s self-titled debut was well-received by fans and critics alike. Outside the booth, it was Crooked I’s entourage that came forward to confront Wu Tang members after their assault of Joe Budden at Rock the Bells.

Solo-wise Crooked I dropped the EP Mr. Pigface Weapon Waist in November, which featured Slaughterhouse, Snoop Dogg, and K Young. As a guest, he blessed tracks from Royce da 5’9 (“Gun Harmonizing”), “Yukmouth (“I’m a Gangsta”), and Tech N9ne (“Sickology 101”)

For this year, Crooked looks to get out an album from his group Horse Shoe G.A.N.G. under his very own Dynasty Entertainment.

Standout Songs- “Woodstock Hoop Hop,” “Sound Off,” “Mr. Pigface”

 

 

Kurupt & DJ Quik

Yes, these are two emcees getting nominated for one crown, but their work together on 2009’s BlaQKout makes the pair inseparable.

Based on an idea from Quik, the duo dropped their debut offering over the summer to mostly glowing reviews. With Quik’s versatile production, Kurupt was rejuvenated and sounded better than he had in years.

To date the duo haven’t confirmed a sequel, but BlaQKout’s critical success makes a future collaboration simply a formality.

Standout Songs- “Do You Know,” “Hey Playa,” “BlaQKout”    

 

 

Verdict

Snoop was the most visible, but Malice n Wonderland wasn’t his best from a lyrical and musical standout. Game had a lot of bark this year, but seemed to lose focus for a few months when Jay-Z declined to be a dance partner. Crooked I and Kurupt/Dj Quik’s work was solid last year, but the 21-year old Fashawn by far delivered the best LP from the West. Hopefully, he won’t just be a critic’s darling, and fans will latch onto one of the best young talents in the game today. As previously stated in “Samonsite Man,” Fashawn shunned wearing the crown, but for 2009 he deserved it.

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